Yahoo Releases First Global Law Enforcement Data Request Transparency Report

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News Posted: Sat, Sep 7 2013 10:08 AM
Yahoo, new logo and all, it turning over a new leaf when it comes to privacy, reporting, and what the public is allowed to know. In the wake of the NSA / PRISM scandal, which is honestly still ongoing, Yahoo has followed Facebook in issuing a public transparency report. Facebook did likewise last month, and now Yahoo has published the company's first global transparency report, which details government data requests from January 1, 2013 through June 30, 2013.

As you might expect, the report includes national security requests. Here's the bottom line from Yahoo: "For each country in this Transparency Report, we show the number of government data requests that we received during the reporting period and how we handled such requests. The total number of accounts specified in these government data requests during the reporting period comprised less than one one-hundredth of one percent of Yahoo users worldwide."


The company plans to issue new, updated reports every six months, and it has clarified that it is not in any program that "volunteers" user data to the government; the government has to come asking, and they need a legal reason to do it. Ron Bell, General Counsel at Yahoo, noted the following: "You will also see the number of accounts specified in these government data requests, which comprised less than one one-hundredth of one percent (<.01%) of our worldwide user base."

That's a tiny, tiny number in the grand scheme of all users, but privacy is an issue where it's really all or nothing. Either you trust a company to value every single member the same, or they have no ground to stand on. Hopefully, being more open about this will also force the government to think twice before blindly going after material that they probably shouldn't be leafing through.
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nice to see.

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While this so-called «Transparency Report» is, indeed, a step in the right direction, it would be a far greater and more meaningful step were Yahoo account holders able, after logging in, to see if any, and in that case just which, governments had requested information regarding their own accounts, rather than meaningless aggregate figures which merely confirm that yes, governments are using Yahoo to carry out their snooping, but we can't tell you if you're among those affected. As Ray points out, even if less than 0.01 % of users are affected, that's still 0.01 % too many for users to retain their trust in the way Yahoo deals with their information, And if, as will be argued, it's illegal for Yahoo to inform users that yes, Government X has requested information on your account - just as it's illegal in the United States for a librarian to tell a library user that the FBI has obtained information regarding which books he or she has checked out - then these are laws which badly need to be changed. Just because a practice is deemed «legal» doesn't render it less abhorrent....

Henri

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